Denver donates 35 bison to Native American tribes

The city of Denver has donated 35 bison to several Native American tribes and one memorial council in Colorado, Oklahoma and Wyoming. The transfers marked another example of Indigenous people reclaiming stewardship over land and animals their ancestors managed for thousands of years.

After a ceremony on Wednesday, the animals were loaded onto trucks and moved to tribal lands.

The city’s Parks Department transferred 17 bison — which many, including Tribal members, commonly call buffalo — to the Northern Arapaho Tribe and 12 to the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, both located in Wyoming. Five went to the Yuchi Tribe of Oklahoma, which will use the animals to establish a new herd. One will go to the Tall Bull Memorial Council in Colorado.

“Our tribes, our ancestors were buffalo people,” says Jason Baldes, a Tribal buffalo program senior manager at the National Wildlife Federation and executive director of the Wind River Tribal Buffalo Initiative. “We want to ensure that our young people today also have that historical and contemporary connection to this animal.”

That means restoring each tribe’s herd to the point that Indigenous people can “get them back into our diet, provide those animals for our cultural and spiritual belief systems,” and provide educational opportunities for young people, Baldes says.

The Shoshone and Arapaho Tribes restored their herds with 10 animals each in 2016 and 2019, respectively, Baldes says. Both tribes’ herds have now grown to several dozen animals.

In the Denver Mountain Parks system, Denver Parks and Recreation maintains two conservation herds that are descended […]

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